i-Mate has no friends

You can't play at the Alternative Investment Market

i-Mate, the Windows Mobile handset manufacturer, will be delisted from the Alternative Investment Market as the share price sinks below a penny and the CEO takes back control of the company.

The Financial Times reports that Jim Morrison, the colourful CEO who still owns more than three quarters of i-Mate, will take full control as the company withdraws from the AIM - itself a listing service for companies with insufficient heft for the London Stock Exchange.

Delisting will save the company over £1m a year. While its shares were once worth more than £2, they're currently languishing below a penny since halving in value in July, and again in September.

The problems should be familiar to anyone with experience in electronics' manufacture - quality control issues and the cost of bringing a range of devices to market with limited production runs of each. Manufacturing is all about volume, which presents a huge barrier to entry for new players unless they have the kind of marketing savvy, and economic muscle, that only Apple has been able to demonstrate in recent years.

i-Mate handsets have a feature set that competes with the best of breed, but without the volume the company lost $61m in the 12 months to March this year, and has already managed to lose $10.8m since then (to the end September).

Now the question becomes how long the company can survive - cash reserves are down to $11.2m, considerably less than the $29m they had back in March when the company was confident that reserves would last at least 12 months.

Once delisted the Chairman, Bernard Cragg, will step down leaving the rambunctious Mr Morrison to take the mantel of chair as well as CEO. He will then attempt to pilot i-Mate through the wreckage left by previous companies attempting to take on the oligopoly of handset manufacturers. ®

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